Download my printable packing list. Keep in mind that I don’t expect you to take everything on the list. Use it to jog your memory and decide whether or not you need an item. I go over the list with a high-lighter and mark the things I plan to take. Then, I check them off as I pack.
Luggage & organizersSuitcase 9”x14”x22” is the maximum carry-on size for most airlines. Hard-sided bags weigh a ton empty. Soft-sided bags are a lighter choice. Look for rugged, in-line skate type wheels, a handle that extends and retracts smoothly, a comfortable grip and handle height.
Day bag A simple shoulder bag for carrying maps, sunglasses, etc. during the day while you’re out sightseeing. A day pack is fine, but many museums will require you to check it. For this reason I use a smaller guide bag.
Packing Cubes Your suitcase is basically a big, empty hole waiting to be filled. Bring some organization to it. These cubes, half-cubes and quarter-cubes are perfect for underwear, socks, and all of the little things that roll around in the suitcase looking for a place to hide.
Clothing Folders You lay everything nice and neatly folded in your suitcase, tie it all down with the built in straps, then stand your suitcase up — and it all ends up in a heap at the bottom. This is actually one of the biggest causes of all those wrinkles in your clothes. Clothing folders keep everything neat, orderly and wrinkle-free bundles.
Locks Locks are useless for airplane travel. Unnecessary for carry-ons, and often cut off or opened for security checks on checked luggage. Handy when your luggage sits in your hotel, though none will stop a determined thief.
Luggage tags Use a business address, if possible, and tags with a flap covering the address section. Thieves have been known to hang around airports, checking tags to see who’s going to be gone for a while. Bright colors and unique designs make it easy to find your bag on the carrousel.
Toiletries kit I like to be able to hang my kit, since many European hotels have limited or no vanity space (pedestal sinks). This also keeps it out of any water that may splash onto the vanity. Since everything I bring is travel size, my toiletries kit is very small.
1qt. zip-closed plastic bags Multiple uses, starting with putting your liquids, pastes and gels in one, and then putting that in an outside pocket of your suitcase. You’ll need to have this out and available when passing through airport security. Also great for storing receipts, transporting wet wash clothes, and protecting electronics in damp environments.
Documents & InformationAirline tickets For e-tickets, the confirmation or locator number.
Driver’s license, international driver’s permit Even if you’re not driving, a license is handy for leaving as a deposit for audio guides in museums (better than your passport)
Photocopies passport data page, credit cards, prescriptions
Vouchers, hotel confirmations
MoneyMoney belt The most important item you bring. I have dozens of stories from travelers who thought they were too experienced, too smart, too savvy to be pick-pocketed. They were wrong. Around the neck style or around the waist is up to you. Just bring a money belt and use it.
Cash If you’re going to get foreign currency before the trip, get no more than $100 worth. I also carry about five US $20 bills with me as an emergency stash.
Money exchange cheat sheet
Wallet I leave this at home and use a combination of money belt (for my credit cards and bulk of my cash) and change purse (for coins and daily spending money).
Food & DrinkBreath mints
Corkscrew Only if you’re checking your bag; can’t carry this on.
Food, snacks for the plane
Heating coil (dual voltage)
Special tea bags, creamer packets, sugar substitute packets
Swiss army knife Only if you’re checking your bag; can’t carry one on.
Clothing & AccessoriesBathing suit Only necessary if you will be doing a spa or beach visit.
Blazer or sport jacket Absolutely unnecessary on any of my travels, but some people may need to dress up a bit for meetings or a very special restaurant
Boots if you’ll be doing any serious hiking
Hat with visor
Jewelry Only cheap costume jewelry to dress up your look a bit, or something that you wear all the time, like a wedding ring. Anything that would ruin your trip if it was lost or stolen should stay home.
Pajamas or nightgown
Pants (two pair packed, one to wear) Light weight slacks like Dockers™ are ideal. Women may want to substitute a skirt for one pair of pants, but it isn’t necessary for any place in Europe.
Poncho or raincoat
Shirts, long-sleeve (two or three)
Shirts, short-sleeve (three or four) Seersucker is the ideal travel fabric for shirts and skirts, usually available from TravelSmith, REI, Land’s End or Eddie Bauer.
Shoe bags, soft covers to keep clothes clean
Shoes, walking Broken in before the trip, they need to be comfortable enough for lots of walking. Looks are secondary. White tennis shoes will instantly brand you as an American (but then, so will everything else about you). Rockports, ECCO, Mephisto, Merrell and others make excellent walking shoes that are also nice looking.
Shorts I rarely wear these in Europe and usually don’t pack them unless I’m heading to Italy in mid-summer. Most Europeans wear them only for the beach, though this is slowly changing. Note that many churches, like the Vatican, will not let you in with bare legs.
Socks six pair packed, one to wear.
Stockings or panty hose
Sweater or sweatshirt A medium dark color sweater is ideal and never wrinkles.
Underwear six pair packed, one to wear
Windbreaker light, waterproof, one that packs into a small pouch — some invert and pack into their own front pocket, meaning you’ll never loose the pouch.
Clothing CareClothesline Stretchy, braided type that will hook anywhere. The best way to dry your laundry after washing it in the sink.
Hangers (inflatable, or hanging clips)
Laundry soap (powder or sheet) for washing clothes in the sink or tub
Small sewing kit Buttons pop off the first day of the trip, it never fails.
Shoe care kit
Sink stopper (universal)
Hygiene & CosmeticsBody, foot powder
Body, hand lotion
Conditioner (travel size)
Contact lenses, cleansing solutions
Hair clips, barrettes
Manicure set (nail clippers, tweezers, nail brush, nail file; remember that you can’t carry scissors on board the plane).
Nail polish, remover pads
Neck rest (inflatable)
Sanitary napkins, tampons
Shampoo (travel size)
Shaving cream (travel size)
Soap (travel size)
Toothpaste (travel size)
Wash Cloth These are non-existent in Europe.
First AidAce bandage
Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen
Insect repellent (cream or lotion)
Medicine in original bottle with labels
Photo & videoFilm and memory cards are expensive in Europe. I used to carry along a fancy camera with multiple lenses, but found the weight and size too cumbersome. Now I just carry a good point and shoot camera. Digital has eliminated any worries about film being ruined by x-rays. I shoot hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pictures, and delete 90% of them.
Charger for camera batteries
Lens cleaning kit
MiscellaneousAddress list For postcards to friends. Having the names already printed on sticky labels is being waaaay too organized.
Alarm clock European hotels rarely have clocks in them, and you can’t rely on your ‘always reliable’ internal clock to wake you on time, especially during the first few days after arrival.
Binoculars (compact) Essential to see and appreciate stained glass, architectural details, and the Mona Lisa.
Flashlight Something small and light weight. Handy when trying to find your way to the bathroom in a strange hotel room without turning on the light and waking your room mate.
Foreign language phrase book
Gift list, including sizes
Postcards and pictures of home and family To share with other tour members and new European friends.
Tape measure (cloth)
Travel Journal It’s amazing how quickly details of the trip become blurred and mixed together. A journal will help you keep it all straight and bring back fond memories years later.
Umbrella Very small and light, so you can easily tuck it into a purse or day pack.
Voltage transformer or converter
Europe uses 220v electrical, so it is critical that you have the right converter if your electrical items are not dual voltage. For dual voltage appliances, you will still need the correct adapters.